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Just the other day I was talking with my brother Dr Jim and my sister Kay. We like to conference call between the Minnie Apple and the Big Apple and now the Music City. Dr Jim told us, in cleaning out a closet, he’d found the original book titled “101 Poems” that the Flapper used to read to them while they were doing chores around the house, after our Father died. There was no TV or internet, the radio was it for entertainment; that, and the human voice.

I told them how I’d recite “The Owl and The Pussycat” for the Love Bug and her brother while they climbed into a box and pretend to sail off to sea in a ‘beautiful pea green boat!’ They would look at me with wonder as the lilting, melodious words tripped off my tongue from some region in my brain that has to be reptilian. I must have loved that poem as a child, and I can imagine the Flapper after our car accident, lying on a couch with her legs post-surgery straight out in front of her, reading it to me over and over again.

Today I awoke to the memory of yesterday, to all the emotions of another terrorist act on our soil, at a country music concert. And because the gun man is white, without an apparent motive, gun nuts would like to chalk this one up to mental illness. But maybe, just maybe, this time our Congress might see through the lies of an NRA lobby, and have some bit of courage they couldn’t summon after Sandy Hook. There is NO need for our citizens to carry assault weapons that can spray death from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay resort. NONE.

For my morning meditation I turned to poetry. Like music, words always help me cope with the unimaginable. And I found this couplet from a 1961 poem by Philip Larkin, “Ambulances”:

Sense the solving emptiness

That lies just under all we do,

And for a second get it whole

So permanent and blank and true.

If poetry is your prescription for pain, you may enjoy an anthology by William Sieghart of 56 different poems, an Rx to help process the curve balls life can throw our way titled  “The Poetry Pharmacy.” He actually tells the reader which poem to read for which ailment – anxiety or the loss of a loved one? Or do you just need to get motivated? Maybe you’re approaching the end of life, and you wonder what it’s all about…Alfie.  http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170927-the-words-that-can-make-us-calmer

Thoughts and prayers just don’t do it for me. I’d rather read a poem and then call Congress!

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When I was young, and didn’t want to eat something the Flapper served at the dinner table, she would happily chirp, “Good! All the more for us!” She was all about the Freudian theory of opposites, and she thought if she just played up how great a new dish was, my defense would fold and I’d give in to her exceptional strategy. Sometimes it worked!

Which is why I was intrigued with an essay written by Andrew Wilkinson on his tactic of reversing his To-Do-List at work; he applied the theory of opposites by turning his goals upside down and became immeasurably happier. “He wanted to figure out how to improve his day and make it more enjoyable. So, he followed the lead of Charlie Munger, right-hand man of famed investor Warren Buffet, and a proponent of ‘inversion’ – a strategy that looks at problems in reverse, focusing on minimising the negatives instead of maximising the positives.” http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20170919-the-power-of-a-not-to-do-list

Last night, as I was explaining simply what the Jewish New Year meant to me while the 5 and “almost” 3 year old partially listened, it dawned on me that I wanted to start off the year 5778 with a new angle. I promised myself I’d try and look for the silver lining when things go south, I’d apply my Pippy Longstocking pigtails to every new challenge. I’d learn something new.

Just imagine making your New Year resolutions, only this time God has his Book open and he’s writing down everything you’re putting on your To-Do-List, making Rosh Hashana a kind of spiritual reckoning that ends at Yom Kippur and you better have confessed all your sins by that time.

“What’s a sin?” the Love Bug asked. I mumbled something about not listening…

So I thought about changing my resolutions, my intention to “do Better” infers that I haven’t been doing enough, right? What if I chose to make this the year I employ some “Anti-Goals?” Like Wilkinson, who stopped meeting with people he didn’t like, stopped holding morning meetings altogether, and never scheduled more than 2 hours of his workday, I might just say “No” now and then. I wonder how he dealt with his emails?

Let’s all try and reverse our thinking for a day, a week or maybe even a year. Let’s just put the wrong shoe on the right foot for once and walk around like a toddler not caring one iota! What will bring you more joy in the New Year? Let’s all make our very own “Not-To-Do-List!”

Happy Birthday to the World and I promise never to stop fighting for climate science education, because otherwise our great-grandchildren will have to populate another planet and start over. And I’m not so sure God would start out with “Let there be Light” again, since we didn’t listen the first time.

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My heart goes out to Texas during Hurricane Harvey. And in particular, a Houston family of five we first met in Nashville years ago, who lived for awhile in Cville; they escaped the storm yesterday, on their oldest child’s birthday, and are now sheltering in Austin. Thankfully.

The Rocker was only 7 years old when a nurse and her husband/firefighter rescued him and his big sister from the December 11th No Name Storm. He dragged his lovey Wiley Coyote along through the flood. Our newly renovated Rumson home was taking on water from the Shrewsbury River, and we were miles away at a conference. Airports shut down, as did I, until I could hold them again.

Someone told me yesterday that refugees from Katrina are still living here in Nashville. She said her brother is a master electrician, and he was on his way to Houston to volunteer. Then she told me he would stay in Texas, as the insurance money flows in for rebuilding, construction workers will have plenty of jobs.

I remembered the Nashville flood of 2010. A newly married Groom, exhausted from late night hospital shifts, woke dreaming his dogs were swimming in the basement. Which of course, they were! The Bride was stuck in her ER, her car on an upper level in a flooded parking garage. I couldn’t wrap my head around a landlocked city flooding, I thought the moon and tides of our coastal towns dictated devastating storms. I was wrong.

An important dam outside of Houston is beginning to overflow as the reservoir rises over its banks. “While spillover would not cause the Addicks dam to fail, it would add more water to the Buffalo Bayou, the main river into the fourth largest city in the US.
Flood officials are also concerned about the Barker dam, which also controls the Buffalo Bayou west of Houston.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41081629

I hate to see this tragic event politicized. Democrats criticizing Republicans for calling for a smaller government while also asking for FEMA aid. Republicans continuing to support  a president on his way to Texas to offer what? Empathy, I’m not sure he’s ever heard of the word. Sorry folks, I couldn’t help myself. Still, chances are he’ll use the limelight to blow his own horn.

But maybe this time, we could forget the political minefield for a moment and all come together to help our fellow citizens in Texas. Because we all are in the same small boat, and the sea is so very wide. You can donate your money, or your blood, or if you can manage to get down there with a skill, your sweat and tears too.

http://www.redcross.org 

Happy Birthday to Mikey in Austin, we miss you buddy but we’re glad you’re safe with your family! Your friend Moana sends you hugs and courage!

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You’ve all seen them while running through an airport. The giant ads – no, not the picture of the Parlor Mob at JFK – pictures of doctors in white coats, smiling in front of computers. Why wait for hours at your local Emergency Department? Can’t get an appointment with your actual doctor for months? Maybe you’re too sick to drive, and just too busy to take an Uber to an Urgent Care?

Well, the Virtual Doctor is in!

The first time I saw my very own Dr McDreamy at UVA I was slightly disappointed. Like many women, I had never had a primary internal medicine doctor before…ObGyns sure, and specialists to repair meniscus tears etc. Whenever something was seriously wrong, I always had Bob to remind me this was just a virus and it would get better with time. But a real doctor, this was something new to me.

Let’s go over the best parts first: the waiting room was almost empty; he was on time; his nurse was efficient, I was blessed with some very good genes so my medication list is mostly vitamins; his resident asked all the right questions; and finally, when I saw the doctor, he sat and talked with me for a very long time. I was in love!

And now for the not so good parts: I had to drive 40 minutes to park in a gigantic cement parking garage I would later get lost in; the walk to his office was well over a mile; and the worst part of all, he never actually touched me. I never got undressed and jumped onto an exam table clinging to a paper robe. No physical exam…I left his office with appointments for tests like blood work and a mammogram.

Let’s skip ahead to that week between my fall off the steps in Nashville, and our trip to the South of France. I called my Primary Care doctor and he was away and they couldn’t fit me in. I called my Orthopedist and his office said since I didn’t break any bones, he doesn’t do muscles! I didn’t bother trying to see my Dermatologist. I wondered aloud, is this what it’s like for everybody? When you finally really really need to see a doctor, like you can barely walk and you’re about to get on a plane, they are nowhere to be found?

Well folks, I think Bob may have found his retirement second act. Emergency docs have to know a little bit about every disease and a whole lot about the ones that will kill you. And isn’t that what we all want to hear? You don’t have a terminal illness. It’s just a cold, get over it! Well, maybe they will say it with a bit more finesse, into their monitor.

Dr Ali Parsa, founder and chief executive of digital healthcare app Babylon, sees the (remote physical and mental) health trend as an undoubted force for good.
“It’s time to do with healthcare what Google did with information – using the power of technology to democratise access for all, and put a personal (digital) doctor in everyone’s pocket regardless of geography or income,” he says. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-40629742

Bob’s been doing this for years already with our relatives and friends. People send him pictures of rashes, x-rays of broken bones, brain CAT scans. He’s functioned as our collective consultant at seders and dinner parties. “My foot’s just not getting better.” Or, “Will you just take a look at all the drugs I’m taking?”

I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want an App or a Bot to speak to about my medical condition, but having a real, live physician on FaceTime or Skype? Sure! And the doctor or the patient could be in Katmandu, so long as the WiFi is working – this takes boutique medicine to the next level.

Lots of hospitals do this already. Did you know in most rural parts of the country, smaller community hospitals have critical care ICU docs checking in via monitors from their big city university hospital? At night, radiologists in other countries read X-Rays that are sent  digitally from the US. This has been going on for years.

I’m feeling hopeful today after the Senate saw fit to drop their misguided bill to “fix” the ACA and throw millions off Medicaid. The sheer irony of Sen McCain delaying the vote because he was busy having a surgical procedure his insurance covers illustrated their sinister deliberations. http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/18/politics/how-the-republican-health-care-bill-fell-apart/index.html

I hate that we politicize health care in this country. Until we see fit to have Medicare for all, maybe technology will help restore access and autonomy to the doctor/patient relationship. And at the very least, we would know if we need to go sit in an ER because our neck is tender and we must rule out meningitis. The doctor is on deck!IMG_0846

 

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Do you remember your 8th Graders trip to the Nation’s Capital? We lived just three miles away from the ocean, our kids went to Rumson’s middle school where they pretty much lived in shorts and surf tee shorts. But we parents were advised to send our young teens to DC with shirts and ties for the boys, dresses for the girls, because as Mark Twain said, “Clothes make the man (or woman).” The Principal told us that over the years she had found that when students dressed well, their behavior improved…and an overnight trip like this could get a little dicey with all those hormones charging around.

This morning I was reading a list of “Ten Books to read for June” from the BBC website http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20170602-ten-books-to-read-in-june – not that I will be able to read ten books in one month, but I found this title fascinating, “Strange Contagion,” by Lee Daniel Kravitz. “Kravetz gathers research on social contagions – the ways in which others influence our lives by catchable thoughts, emotions and behaviours.” 

Kravitz looked into the Palo Alto suicide clusters of teens throwing themselves onto train tracks in 2009 and again in 2014. I wrote about this and the term “affluenza” in a study published in the Atlantic here: https://mountainmornings.net/2016/01/03/a-study-in-money/

And I’ve had occasion to think about it recently. Not suicide, but social stress, the whole keeping up with somebody syndrome. One friend hires a company to update her closet, and before you know it the whole subdivision is installing custom closets. Men were comparing notes on woodstoves in the Berkshires, in the Blue Ridge they talk about tractors. You’ve heard of the study about how hanging with overweight friends will make you fat, right?

“…the study’s conclusion that if you have heavier friends, family members, and colleagues, it is more likely that you will be heavier, too. The stronger the relationship between the two people, the stronger the link between their weights. But only one of the pathways—number three—explained why people of the same size clustered together. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-your-friends-make-you-fat—the-social-network-of-weight-201105242666

The three pathways the Harvard study referenced were: 1) Collaboration; 2) Peer Pressure; and 3) Monkey See Monkey Do! So that curious little monkey is responsible for our widening waistlines? How many of us have gone out to dinner with friends and heard, “Well if you’re ordering an appetizer…” or, on the other hand, maybe everyone says “No thanks” to the dessert menu and you refuse it too, even though you’ve been dying for a piece of their famous apple pie!

The need to belong, to fit into a certain cultural place is universal. Whenever we would show family and neighbors the mechanical room in our basement’s “Not so Big” house and its tankless water heater, they would marvel. To think you never run out of hot water, and you save money by not heating up gallons of water that just sits there waiting for you to get into the shower.

I’m hoping beyond hope that social contagion will keep our country on the road to fewer carbon emissions and a sustainable future despite Mr T’s backtracking on the Paris Agreement. I’ve already heard that California and New York are committed to moving forward with green energy, oh and Pittsburgh didn’t like being lumped into Mr T’s speech yesterday either. The NYTimes reports a coalition is forming to proceed anyway, defying Mr T!

The unnamed group — which, so far, includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses — is negotiating with the United Nations to have its submission accepted alongside contributions to the Paris climate deal by other nations. “We’re going to do everything America would have done if it had stayed committed,” Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who is coordinating the effort, said in an interview.”  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/climate/american-cities-climate-standards.html?_r=0

So catch this thought Mr T, we Americans can dilute your damaging policy and defend Mother Earth. We will not all follow you off that negative/denial cliff, some of us would like to protect our world for future generations. It’s the least and the most we can do. Now if I could just get Bob to buy a Tesla!      IMG_0538

 

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I’ve always said it’s easier for a woman in our golden years, or silver years, because we have always had certain routines. Centuries of domestic duties, child and elder care responsibilities. Maybe it’s just my generation, but for the most part we were the gardeners and the gatherers, we kept the home fires burning. Some men do, however, take up cooking and laundering once they retire, if they don’t find themselves “consulting” on a golf course.

Our last night in Nashville, I found myself frying up some catfish and shrimp for a crowd. And although I was in pain from a fall off a step, I was happy to be useful. Having a purpose, isn’t that the raison d’etre for woman and mankind?

But for young women today, the roles are not so clearly drawn. We raised our daughters to believe they too could be President one day (say this aloud again and again please); women could bear the babies and bring home the bacon. Anything. Was. Possible. I told the Bride again and again. Books advised them to Lean IN, and maybe their pay wasn’t quite up to par, but opportunities were endless! Of course, money helps…

And wealth, a staggering amount of wealth may not bring you happiness, but it certainly helps with childcare. Strangely enough, I understand how Ivanka Trump could praise her daddy at the Berlin G20 Women’s Summit. Next to the leader of the free world, Angela Merkel, Ivanka spoke of empowering women everywhere, and said she thought the media was giving her father a bad rap. It’s not his draconian policies or paternalistic pugilistic attitude toward women, it’s the big bad media.

“He encouraged me and enabled me to thrive. I grew up in a house where there were no barriers to what I could accomplish,” Ivanka told a German panel. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39704840

She actually grew up in several houses, with many helpers, cooks and chauffeurs and a daddy who treated her like a real princess, in a tower. He left her mother when she was ten years old for a younger model and shipped her off to a boarding school five years later. Which is most likely why the German audience audibly groaned when she defended her father and her upbringing.

After all, how many women are struggling single-handedly to raise their children and put food on the table in our country? At least in Germany, parental leave is a tangible thing – 14 months of paid parental leave after having a baby, for both or even one parent… And once they go back to work? The German government is dedicated to provide childcare for its children, so that women and men can return to work. In fact, if there are no available kinder-spots, parents can actually sue the government! https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/01/german-childcare/512612/

Of all the president’s men, I am at least slightly optimistic about Ivanka. She talks a good game about empowering women, and I want to believe her. She has her father’s ear, though exactly what her role will be in the White House is anybody’s guess. Remember that FDR was born to the carriage trade, but had the courage to steer us through the Great Depression and understand the working class. Maybe Ivanka will help us pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which just passed in Nevada this March without much fanfare.

Or will Mr T, like King Lear, give away our kingdom to the highest bidders and his two sons, turning away from Cordelia/Ivanka in the end? I hope she comes back from Germany soon, to steer her aging father away from the precipice. And his Twitterfeed.

Here is Nana doing preschool pickup, #beforethefall.    IMG_0360

 

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How else can one explain what is happening in China over the last few years? Mr T Tweets at 3am, and now he’s calling the Taiwanese Prez, which is like snubbing your nose at your big (or little depending on your POV) brother or sister. Only this sibling doesn’t sleep, and could suffocate you with his or her pillow all while continuing to pollute our environment.

Remember back in February when I recommended a compelling non-fiction book about China? “Age of Ambition – Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the new China” by Evan Osnos. https://mountainmornings.net/2016/02/27/mj-fever/

If you’re not one for the long read, how about a couple of articles in this month’s Atlantic, “China’s Great Leap Backward?” Kisssinger explains China 101 and tells us how to avoid a trade war, among other things. And James Fallows tells us that freedom is even harder to find in the new China; “It has become repressive in a way that it has not been since the Cultural Revolution.”

We Americans have been asleep. We don’t want to wake to the nightmare of last month’s election, and why should we? We would rather come home from work, open a craft beer, and watch Netflix. Only the latest sci-fi series I told you about, Black Mirror, is actually coming true in China! https://mountainmornings.net/2016/10/25/feeling-twitchy/

If you need a respite from politics, and all the mud-slinging of this election, I have a Netflix show to recommend from England. “Black Mirror” (a trope to our attachment to the smart screen) is about how technology is changing the course of human history in a very scary, sinister and smart way. I’ve only seen the first few episodes of Season 1, created by Charlie Brooker, but if you are wondering where our dystopian obsession with devices is going, tune into the future.

So that’s what I said in October…and now China is creating a nightmare for its citizens with their tacit consent.

It is collecting “Social Credit Scores,” in other words, the dragon has a highly developed Big Brother with a big pillow under his head. All electronic purchasing data, social media networks, and algorithmic sorting devices are being collected to give each citizen a score between 350 and 950. This system not only monitors whether or not you could pay for your apartment. but how compliant you are politically, and what kind of spouse you might make! If you hit a score of 700+ you are allowed to travel to Singapore…

Black Mirror is no longer science fiction, it is becoming fact. The Regime can now keep a tally of any message with a mention of Tienanmen Square for example, which would not only lower your score, but those of your friends and family! All of the scores are available to everybody in China online, and strangely enough like salmon swimming furiously upstream, citizens have embraced this system.

And just like the American 12 year old I overheard bragging about how many Instagram followers she had, I am finding this brave new world frightening. After all, we have Google and Amazon and Facebook et al collecting our data, but our government isn’t quite yet in cahoots with them, is it? http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-34592186

It’s enough to make me want to crawl right back under the covers and hibernate the winter away. But first a prayer for what it’s worth, please God, let Mr T pick Romney over Giuliani for Secretary of State. We don’t need any more bulls roaming free in a China shop. Let me know when it’s time to wake up and get off the grid. From an exhibition in LA at the Broad Museum – this is Jenny Holzer 1979 – it’s strangely prescient

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